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Children's Dental Health Month: Local Dentist Travels to Developing Countries to Treat Kids with Cleft Conditions

Posted on Monday, February 6, 2023

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a month-long observance that reinforces the importance of oral health in children and the value of starting pediatric dental care at an early age. For children born with cleft conditions, maintaining proper oral health is uniquely challenging. Global surgical nonprofit Operation Smile goes beyond the call of providing free cleft repair surgery to children living in developing countries and establishes comprehensive care centers to ensure these children are living healthy lives before and after surgery. These comprehensive care centers offer patients a variety of services including dentistry and orthodontics. Through this extension of care, Operation Smile also provides patients with oral health education and resources to support healthy smiles for a lifetime.

This National Children’s Dental Health Month, Operation Smile is recognizing dedicated volunteer Dr. Carmen Kamas-Weiting from Houston, Texas. Dr. Kamas-Weiting has been volunteering with Operation Smile since 1996 and her enthusiasm for working with children in low- and middle- income countries is as strong as ever.

Dr. Carmen Kamas-Weiting owns a small private dental practice near Texas Medical Center in Houston. She has been in private practice for nearly 40 years but in that time has taken on the additional responsibility of providing dental care to children in under-resourced communities all over the world with Operation Smile.

“I started volunteering with Operation Smile in 1996 and was informed about it by two of my patients that were volunteering with them at that time,” Dr. Kamas-Weiting recalls. “I decided to go and volunteer even though my children were young because my father had been a dentist and got terminally ill and had told me that I should not wait to volunteer, but just go to it. I felt like I had a skill and should use it for others needing help.”

As a volunteer dentist, Dr. Kamas-Weiting wears many hats, but one of the most common procedures she performs is extracting teeth that may be infected or in the way of achieving a favorable surgical outcome. Additionally, Operation Smile dentists must incorporate innovative procedures and equipment into their treatment plans for patients with cleft conditions.

“We make appliances called obturators that are made to close the "hole" in a cleft palate or make molding plates to help close the gaps on cleft palates on infants before their surgery.” Dr. Kamas-Weiting explains. “The dentist can make feeding plates for babies that are underweight to help them gain weight prior to surgery. These feeding plates are for babies with large cleft palates that cannot feed correctly. We also give oral hygiene instructions. If we have a dedicated clinic at our clinic location, we can do fillings and cleanings as well.”

Dr. Kamas-Weiting was also one of the first volunteers to take part in the Operation Smile Women in Medicine program in Morocco in March 2020. She recently returned from her second Women in Medicine program in Malawi this past September. “It was amazing to see an all-women’s team take care of an entire surgical program,” Dr. Kamas-Weiting reflects. “The people in Malawi were so loving and caring. It was so cool to see all these people coming to help the Malawi people.”

While Dr. Kamas-Weiting’s work with Operation Smile is vital to the success of a patient’s outcome, she comments on the importance of proper dental hygiene for children in every stage of development. “All children deserve a healthy mouth and a healthy smile. National Children's Dental Health Month helps bring awareness to parents to help their children learn good oral hygiene habits. An early upbringing with the dentist will help ensure a lifetime of good oral health.”

Learn more at or by following @operationsmile on social media.

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